Every story starts somewhere. Characters need a setting to play out their activities and, sometimes, the place becomes an integral part of the story, even a character in its own right. Because, like people, places have their own personalities. There is the public face, freely given. Some locations, those accustomed to tourists, act as if they have dressed up for their visitors. Other places, more utilitarian and focused on their own affairs, adopt a more take-me-as-you-find-me approach. But all these streets will give you another face if you see them first thing in the morning or the still hours of the night. And every town has spots where the links to the things we don’t understand are closer to the surface than perhaps we feel comfortable with, whether this is the weight of too much history or somewhere which has fallen out of step of what we consider normal. Sometimes something extraordinary can happen in a place you go past everyday - remember this?
Colchester has many faces and, throughout history, has inspired many stories. Authors have used its streets to portray illicit love affairs, acts of defiance and foul murder. While I created my own town for my novels, I imagined the town with an elaborate, Victorian town hall, a silted-up harbour and a hospital in a housing estate – now where could I have got those ideas from?
My Jane’s walk takes you to spots in the town centre mentioned in stories but while we cannot walk, we still have the stories. I’d like to see these strange times become a channel for the town’s creativity and I’m encouraging you to be inspired in Colchester and write about something in the town. It may be the view from your window or something you see during your exercise. If you are stuck for where to start, imagine the people who very first lived in your property – what would life have been like then? If you are the first people, imagine the people who will be living there in fifty years time – what will be different for them? What would these people think, feel and know? What would happen if, through some strange process, you could all meet? I hope this sparks some ideas. If you write something, I’d love to see it by posting it as a comment.
Keep safe and hope to see you for a walk soon.